Is Goldfish a part of Persian Norooz

 I must start by admitting that in the past 30 or so years of preparing my family’s Norooz /Nowruz  table on 20 March for Persian New Year,  I have never bought goldfish, despite the widespread practice. When I was younger, I discouraged and prevented my parents to do so and when I was younger still, I used to dread waking up one morning after Norooz Day and finding the goldfish floating sideways on the top of the tank  – a fact that was bound to happen sooner or later and ruin the rest of my holidays.  See? Super-sensitive to the core since time immemorial!  Now, back to our discussion:

In the past few years an increasing number of bloggers and online campaigners have been urging people in Iran to stop buying goldfish as a part of their Norooz table (haft-sin). The reasons given against buying goldfish is manifold with the focus being on the unethical nature of the practice.  [Sight of relief. Finally!]

I mean, common, is it so hard to figure out?  A goldfish imprisoned in a jar is the saddest thing in the world! Why do I want to exhibit it in my exhilarating colorful Norooz table?  By the same token, Norooz itself is much more than a celebration of Persian New Year; it is the celebration of nature, of the re birth, and rejuvenation, of  hope and wealth, health, beauty, purity and happiness that comes with it. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure a captive goldfish does not belong there!

And I am not even talking about the miserable conditions that the poor thing is industrially farmed before being sold; the conditions that it is being kept during its short life at hands of curious children, examining it every so often, etc.

According to online campaigners, each year five million goldfish are killed around Norooz. FIVE Million only in Iran. That’s too depressing.  No, I would say, keeping goldfish is not refreshing on any happy Noroozi table in any part of the world.

Well, the good news is that this practice apparently does not have any Iranian connotation whatsoever! It has been argued that among dozens of centuries old travel documents and Norooz-letters and painting passed on to us, nowhere do we see any mention of goldfish being a part of Norooz, while every other part of the tradition and of the table has been described in details and spelled out. It is true that red fish generally has a special place in Persian mythology and motifs for instance in Persian rugs. Also it is true that eating stuffed fish with rice is connected with Norooz.  Yet, none of these really connect Norooz table with live and captive goldfish.

In fact, it seems that the tradition of goldfish is linked to a Chinese tradition imported to Iran – in a distorted fashion about a century ago:  At the turn of their New Year, some of the online goldfish buyer campaigner argue, Chinese free a red fish to celebrate life. We liked the tradition, so adopted it, only we imprison and keep the goldfish!

Cannot testify to the truth of this one! All I know is obtaining a goldfish for the purpose of keeping, showcasing, freeing, or whatever… is so against the spirit of the Norooz I know and grew up and cherish.  And I LOVE my Norooz table just as it is- so full of life without goldfish!

[Picture Taken from a sit: Persian Pet: Under the Subject “Don’t Buy Gold fish”]


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